What's In Pumpkin Spice?

Oct 21, 2016

This time of year, it’s hard to avoid pumpkin spice. It’s being used for candles, lattes, and even beef jerky. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Aaron Steil, assistant director for Reiman Gardens about what makes up the iconic blend.

Horticulture expert Richard Jauron also joins the conversation to answer listener questions.

What's in Your Pumpkin Spice?

Cinnamon “This is a large tropical tree. It’s native to southern China, Southeast Asia. There are several species that are used for the spice cinnamon. The ones we often use in America are the really hard sticks that are broken up and ground up into powder. This is actually the dried inner bark of the tree.”

The fruit of the nutmeg tree.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Nutmeg “It is the seed itself that we use. It’s another large tropical tree. It’s native to Indonesia. It produces year round, and it has a little bit larger than a walnut sized fruit," he says.

"The nutmeg plant is one of the few that you get two separate spices from. The spice mace also comes from that plant.”

Ginger “Ginger is native to India. It grows all over tropical Asia... It's actually a fairly attractive plant. And unlike the ones we’re talking about, it’s an herbaceous plant. Of all the plants on this list, it’s the one that you could, if you wanted a fun project, to grow here in Iowa.”

A clove flower
Credit SCMiller/Wikimedia Commons

Cloves “They are the unopened flowers of a plant in the myrtle family. So essentially they wait for the flowers to get to a very specific stage and then they harvest and dry them. The petals will roll into a ball. It’s kind of like broccoli where you harvest before the flowers open.”

All Spice “All spice is a specific plant that’s not native to Southeast Asia. This one is native to the West Indies. This is the green unripened fruit from this plant that is cut and dried. When it was first discovered, people thought it tasted like a combination of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper," he says.

"It’s used a lot in Jamaican cooking and in Middle Eastern cooking.”